In the past decade, Mrs Aye Cheng Shone has handled 154 cases as an assigned solicitor with the Legal Aid Bureau, but she still approaches each new one with a passion.
"I tell myself that I'll do the best I can," said the 45-year-old family lawyer, who also runs her own law firm, A C Shone & Co.
Sometimes, this means lending a listening ear to clients who vent their frustrations outside of consultation time. "I try to give them some direction, as someone who has seen many different case scenarios," she said.
For her contributions, she received a 10-year Appreciation Award on Wednesday at the bureau's 55th Anniversary Dinner at Grand Copthorne Waterfront Hotel. In total, 17 individuals and three law firms received awards.
Senior Minister of State for Education and Law Indranee Rajah, the guest of honour, spoke of how the bureau has grown. Over its 55-year history, it has provided legal aid and assistance to more than 300,000 applicants. In the 2012 financial year, it handled more than 10,000 applications.
She acknowledged the efforts of assigned solicitors such as Mrs Shone, who handle "about 33 per cent" of the bureau's cases.
"Many have continued to serve the bureau's applicants at the expense of their personal time and resources, which could otherwise have been spent on private clients," she said.
"I salute all of you for your dedication and commitment."
Ms Indranee also recognised long-serving staff such as senior deputy director Louis D'Souza, who she said are critical to the bureau's operations.
"I understand that Louis D'Souza encourages his colleagues to 'picture yourself in the other person's shoes, and then ask yourself how you would want to be treated if you were them'," she said.
Mr D'Souza, 56, told The Straits Times that the bureau's work is especially meaningful because everyone has the same objective. "Everyone wants to give help to the helpless, and hope to those without," he said.
He added, however, that the work is not easy, because "you see sadness every day".
Agreeing, Mrs Shone said her clients often come to her in tears over their marital problems. She makes it her goal to help them move on with their lives.
"When I see that they are calm at the end, that makes me genuinely happy."
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